Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chelsea in Amsterdam

Wednesday, October 16 and Thursday, October 17

We arrived off our bus from Lyon around 3pm, only a little later than scheduled. We immediately went to the booking office next door and booked our outbound tickets to London for Friday. The office worker was very nice, I was pleased to note.

Next we walked to the metro/train station a few yards from the coach station. I was glad I had done my research and found out about the different kinds of public transportation passes, etc. We were able to buy a 48 hour pass good for the buses, metro, and trams for 12 Euro each. Individual rides were something like 2 Euro each, so we figured this was a good deal. Again, the ticket lady was nice! I was starting to get a good feeling about Amsterdam.

We asked at the information desk about the platform to catch the metro to Centraal Station where we could get a bus to our B&B. Once again, the man was very kind and helpful to us. We got on the metro and managed to find seats together. Once we got to Centraal Station, we looked for the bus stop. There were about 15. We finally found a map that showed which buses went to which specific bus stop. I was feeling on a roll from our success thus far, so I found the bus our host had told us to take, and we headed for bus stop "F". We found it easily enough after a bit of a walk, and luckily the bus was just then approaching. We boarded it and found seats.

We were supposed to get off after 7 stops, but I forgot to count. As we passed bus stops, I noticed that I wasn't recognizing any of the stop names from the map I had looked at before arriving. Finally, I decided we should probably get off and look at a map again. So, we disembarked at the next stop and upon consulting the bus route map, I realized that while we had gotten the correct bus NUMBER, we took it going the wrong direction. *Sigh!*

We crossed the street and waited about 5 minutes for the bus heading in the right direction. When the bus pulled up, we recognized the driver from our last bus! I guess it had reached the end of the line right after we got off, then swooped around to go the other direction. Ironic. We finally headed in the right direction and made it to our correct stop.

After navigating the slightly confusing winding streets, we made it to our Air B&B host's place. It was cute but very small. I guess Romeo had thought we were getting the entire apartment, not just a room. Meeting our host was a little awkward. She spoke English, but spoke very fast with a strong accent. It was hard to understand her. It felt like couchsurfing but we were paying and there were rules. I admit, I didn't like the experience very much... We decided that if we wanted to do AirBnB again, we would book the entire apartment/flat rather than simply a room.

I had a much-needed shower and then we headed out to make the most of our first evening in Amsterdam. We took the bus back towards Centraal Station and got off near a cute neighborhood that looked like it had a lot of shops and restaurants. We were starving, so we ate at the first place that looked good; it happened to be Italian food. Romeo got the pizza special and I got salmon pasta. My pasta was actually very good (the sauce was better than what I'd had even in Italy), but there were lots of onions I had to pick out. Also, while we were waiting for food, I heard a microwave and got very suspicious.

After dinner, we walked around the canals and streets soaking in the atmosphere. We had a juice (wasn't in the mood for alcohol) at a cafe, then walked around some more. It was a low-key and relaxing night.
When we got back to the room, our host was there and awake. We soon learned just how thin the walls were. No, we didn't hear anything explicit, but we could hear her TV as if it were in our room, and around midnight she had on some techno music. "What is this b!^$# doing, Jazzercising?! It's midnight!!" was my infamous comment about it...

The next day, we woke up at a decent time and got ready for the day: our only full day in Amsterdam. We had breakfast at the apartment, but we tried to be super quiet and whispered the whole time. We ate some toast and cereal, as were provided. We also made a couple of sandwiches since some meat and cheese were provided as well.

First, upon my request, we went in search of H&M so I could try to find A) a light jacket, my only one thus far being quite heavy; and B) some jeans. I had ordered some new jeans before the trip, and only took those. One pair fits nicely, but the other is very loose in areas that you don't want it to be loose, so I wanted to get some tighter, better fitting ones. Luckily, I found both at a good price!

After HM, where Romeo also found a shirt he needed, we went next door to a Turkish kebab restaurant. We shared some frites and a Coke, and each had a delicious kebab sandwich. In our post-lunch food coma, we meandered around the area, ran into a carnival happening, and finally got a tram in the direction of the Anne Frank house. It was the one tourist-type thing I wanted to go to in Amsterdam. However, the line was quite long and I decided that I didn't want to wait. Plus, it was 9 Euros to enter. I just didn't want to wait and pay. It would have been cool, but I didn't think it was worth it. Instead, I took a picture with an Anne Frank statue nearby.

Next, we headed towards the Museumplein where there are the famous "I Amsterdam" letters. We once again misread the bus/tram map and had to backtrack a bit (thank goodness for our unlimited pass), but we finally got there. After a quick snack run at the grocery store nearby, we walked to the letters and took some photos. Of course, it was overrun with tourists, children, and idiot fraternity guys climbing on the letters, so our photos weren't the best. But, such is life as a tourist!

Snacks in hand, we went to a bar and got some drinks to accompany them. With free WiFi, we hung out for a couple hours, hiding from the rain and enjoying our relaxing day in Amsterdam. Our snacks held us over and we decided to forego dinner. Instead, we headed to the infamous Red Light District. No trip to Amsterdam is complete without a walk down the streets of this area. We witnessed some Madam yelling at a John in the doorway of a shop. Literally she was screaming at him and telling him to leave. We weren't too sure what sparked this controversy, but I saw her walk over to the wall next to a window a press a button. A light lit up outside, then she went back to dealing with the guy. I am guessing it was calling either some gangsters to come and deal with him, or the police. One or both.

We got some frites as a treat and continued our very interesting walk. It was very sad to think that probably 75% of those women were trafficked into their current profession. And it was disgusting to think that men actually pay for sex with them. It almost seemed like a tourist attraction to me, rather than a real woman trying to make money with her body. Sad...

Having seen quite enough, we headed back to the apartment and turned in early. Our host was home at the beginning of the night, getting ready to go to some DJ party, but she left around 11 and we finally felt like we didn't have to whisper every single conversation.

The next morning we got up early and headed for our bus to London!

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